The NY Times national security reporter held news of a massive voter manipulation campaign while pumping up the political operatives behind it as ace Russian disinformation detectives.
By Dan Cohen
In September 2018, New York Times national security reporter Scott Shane attended an off-the-record event in Washington, DC held by American Engagement Technologies, a data firm run by Obama administration veteran Mikey Dickerson. Shane was not there simply as an observer – he was invited to speak on his supposed subject of expertise: “Soviet and Russian disinformation.”
It was at that meeting where Shane learned of “Project Birmingham,” an online disinformation campaign waged against voters in the 2017 Alabama senate race between Republican Roy Moore and its eventual winner, Democrat Doug Jones.
The plot involved voter suppression tactics, including what its architects called an “elaborate false flag operation” that aimed to convince voters that the Kremlin was supporting Moore through thousands of fake Russian bots. The campaign also involved a phony Facebook page that encouraged Alabamians to vote for an obscure write-in Republican candidate, arranged interviews for him in major newspapers and even sought to arrange SuperPAC funding for his campaign.
But as Shane learned, this deception wasn’t the work of the Kremlin or financed by Russian oligarchs. It was a mass manipulation carried out by a private cyber intelligence firm run by Democratic operatives called New Knowledge. And it was run in conjunction with AET – the firm that had invited him to its secret meeting.